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Sylvia Yin, Co-Founder and COO, SHOPPR

April 16, 2016 • Female Leadership In Our Time, Women in Leadership

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My rule of thumb while raising finance is to always know who you are raising money from. Don’t stop at researching about venture capitalists, but go beyond to know who their limited partners are.

Shoppr was developed in 2013 by Sylvia Yin and Kendrick Wong as an online store aggregator app that gives users clothing recommendations. Later on they moved away from that direction and now Shoppr has become as a place for girls to share their fashion style, influence thousands of other fashionistas and get inspired by fashion around them. Shoppr has won a handful of startup competitions such as AngelHack Kuala Lumpur and D3 Hackathon, Facebook PARSE, Best App for Commercialisation and the MYDD AT&T Hackathon. In addition, Shoppr raised USD $400,000 in seed funding from 500 Startups, East Ventures and a Malaysian angel investor via the Angel Investor Forum.

 

Click here to download your free copy of the Female Leadership in Our Time

 

ON THE JOURNEY TO DEVELOPING FASHION MOBILE APPS

I have a degree in economics and have no prior training in fashion nor mobile app development but the switch came naturally because of my interest in Behavioural Economics. I was very fascinated by the use of choice architecture through the theories and principles I was acquainted with during my university days. When the opportunity came for me to build my own mobile app, I saw it as the perfect chance to apply what I learnt in the classroom to real life situations. I wanted to experiment and find practical answers to theories I’ve been researching through my academic life, such as does choice paralysis exist? – In our case it did, reducing the number of buttons drastically increased all-time clicks on the remaining buttons.

 

ON GENDER AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

While entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, it is still predominately populated by males. This is especially true if you are building a technology-heavy business like a mobile app. I navigated these biases by acknowledging its existence but choosing not to let it define me. In my opinion, as soon as you let it define you, you start imposing restrictions on yourself. When you are able to free yourself from these stereotypes, you become much more confident in your decisions and actions.

 

ON GENDER, ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND FUNDRAISING

My rule of thumb while raising finance is to always know who you are raising money from. Don’t stop at researching about venture capitalists, but go beyond to know who their limited partners are. By understanding all the players in the arena, you will then have a better picture of their risk profiles, goals, motivations and most importantly, if it aligns with yours. This helps tremendously with narrowing down the set of investors you should speak to and reducing the time you are away from product building. At the end of the day, the business you build is hinged on the success of your product and the terms of the raise, not how much money raised.

I find that the rest of the players in the ecosystem have been warming up to the idea of female entrepreneurs. This is especially true when it comes to eCommerce. In Asia, women are increasingly in control of household purchasing decisions such as groceries, home product, furnishing and children product. Of course, in clothing, accessories and cosmetics too. In my opinion, businesses focusing on these verticals would greatly benefit from having a founder who herself is a consumer of what she is selling and is able to bring a female perspective to problem solving.

 

ON THE INSPIRATION FOR SHOPPR

Shoppr was inspired by my own frustration with the process of discovering outfit ideas for different occasions and how to source the teams I have been inspired by. I was frustrated by the hours I needed to spend researching before coming across items similar to what I want. The problem magnified as soon as I moved back to Malaysia, where eCommerce is still at its infancy.

Teaming up with my co-founders, Kendrick Wong and Nikolai Prettner, we started out by building an MVP and hit the streets for feedback. We interviewed over 150 girls in our target demographic before our official launch in early May 2015. We knew Shoppr is receiving validation when these group of interviewees go on to spread the words about Shoppr to their friends. From here, our group of ambassadors grew organically as one introduces another to join Shoppr. Shoppr ambassadors are key to our innovation process. We receive real-time feedback from them and make necessary iterations based on the information collected.

 

ON MARKETING, TRUST AND BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

While subscribing to sites like Tech Crunch helps, nothing beats relationship building. This is important when everything is not readily searchable on Google and in Asia in particular, as there isn’t a distributed place to find all about marketing in the SEA context. A lot of information still travel via word of mouth. To keep ahead of the game, you have to build relationships with those not just in your industry but outside of your industry and be willing to share your ideas with them. Asia is a collectivist society so the emphasis on helping one another out is important when creating trust. Social media will continue as the dominating distribution channel in SEA while long-tail SEO leads the way for mature countries in Europe.

 

ON WOMEN AND THE TECH INDUSTRY

Shoppr is strongly for women in tech. We believe in unbiased evaluation of our hires and that is reflected in the equal gender distribution in the company. We recently concluded a programme called “Shoppr Girls Learn to Code” where each female hire is provided with monetary support and guidance from the development team to pick and learn a programming language of our choice.

From my personal experience of learning to code, I came to realise that I was never into computers and technology because it did not feel relatable to me. But that is wrong because code is genderless. You can use it to build applications that also cater to female issues and needs. In those regards, change has to start early in the education front. More experimentations on gender personalisation of computer sciences curriculum should be conducted. I believe a simple change in coursework rubrics from using Jenny instead of James would greatly help females feel like they belong.        

 

ON RISK TAKING

I am generally a risk averse person but entrepreneurship has taught me to learn to identify appropriate situations for risk taking. When you are building something from ground up, you have no idea what works or not, so you need to move fast and accept failure as a platform to learn. In this case, being too risk averse becomes detrimental as it slows you down, so anytime a competitor may out manoeuvre you. The biggest risk I have ever taken has to be building Shoppr. Having just graduated from university at 22 and knowing next to nothing about mobile app development and entrepreneurship, I dived head-first into building Shoppr with only the clear sense that there is a problem I need to solve and I would like to be the person providing the solution. I was a wild ride at first but I am feeling more confident as each day passes, knowing I have the capacity to rise up to challenges.

 

ON FUTURE CHALLENGES

For Shoppr, I would like it to be every girl’s fashion best friend. When you think of fashion, you think of Shoppr – the entire journey from seeking fashion advice to shopping for the desired piece. On a personal level, I would like to receive my yoga teacher certification. In five years time, I wish to be travelling across the SEA region overseeing Shoppr’s operations in different markets.

 

ON THE THREE THINGS . . .

I will not leave my home without iPhone, some cash and a lip tint, of course.

 

Click here to download your free copy of the Female Leadership in Our Time

 

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